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Balvenie 25yo Single Cask bottled at 46.9%ABV

Speyside – 46.9%ABV – 750ml – $404 (wowza! This was originally about £100/$200 when it was first released 5 years ago)

It’s not secret that I’m a fan of The Balvenie.  I’ll be headed there as part of the JSMWS tour this month and have been counting down the days until my arrival there.  I was hoping to meet up with Mr. Sam Simmons while I’m out there but sadly, we’ll be missing one another.

In case you missed my video series on The Balvenie (special thanks goes out, once again to Sam on that one), you can check them out here.

The Balvenie has always nailed it with the 15yo single cask series, let’s see what another 10 years and an added $350 dollars does for this whisky…

On the nose Lemony goodness right up front.

Indian cooking spices; turmeric and a breath of cumin.

This is a nice bourbon fresh nose.  Oaky, honey, tangerines.  Fresh cotton.  Pineapple and mangoes.  Ripe banana.  Banana peel. I’m almost getting some blue raspberry in there.   This list goes on and on…

Pears, bruised macintosh apples.

This is all rounded out by what seems to be lightly salted peanuts (the smell, not the taste).

On the mouth– Hot and clean (an oxymoron in the adult film community).

Malty.  Tannic.  Limes.

So far, I enjoyed the nose much more…  Let’s take a break, maybe add a bit of water…

Water calms this one down quite a bit.

Cooked sugar and orange butter.  Malty.  Insanely clean and fresh.

Dried apricots.  Toasted coconut.  Creme brulee.

Finish Hot, long finish filled with banana, honey and a touch of apple.

In sum Oh, you tease!  The nose was brilliant.  I can not stress that enough.  The flavor of the whisky was a bit too shy but water woke her up just enough to make it all worth while.  While normally I prefer a higher ABV, I think this one benefited with the addition of water.  This is a watch-your-kids-play-in-the-sandbox-on-a-cool-summer’s-day type of dram.  I’m not sure I know what that means but perhaps it’s the mix of parental pride and relaxation.

Special thanks goes out to Sam Simmons for the sample (sorry it took me so damn long to post on this one!!)

Two Laphroaigs, both independently bottled. One from Royal Mile Whiskies the other from Signatory.

This is going to be a sort of cut-to-the-chase review.

More whisky, less preamble.

I’ve got a trip to Scotland to in a few days, lots to review and little time for posting more than notes.

So, two Laphroaigs, both independently bottled. One bottled by Royal Mile Whiskies, one by Signatory.  A death match to the finish (pun intended).

Laphroaig RMW 10yo 56.8% (this bottle is no longer available)

On the nose Smoky and abrasive yet fruity… sort of like a fruit orchard on fire.

Lemon custard pie with a side of honeycomb cereal.

Very aggressive nose – at 56.8% I’d expect so but… it seems somehow moreish in the hot-alcohol-on-the-nose department.

Pears, cinnamon and pepper; in that order.

Lastly, some notes of tinned pineapple… Tin and all.

On the mouth– 

Not as smoky as the nose lead on.

Fresh oats and other cereals. Very malty.

Creamy attack loaded with lemons and salted, honey and butter slathered toast.

Finish nice even, drying finish. Like licking a dry Popsicle stick or tongue depressors.

In Sum A nice well balanced Laphroaig. Well chosen you choosers of cask! I could easily pour this on a warm summer night or a cold winter day. Sounds odd but very doable!  Actually, I’d love to taste this as beer before it becomes spirit.  I imagine it’s delicious.

Laphroaig 8yo Signatory 46% $53

On the nose very similar, if you ask me, to the RMW version except softer (a result of the lower ABV?).

Here’s an unusual one: blueberry bramble.

Rubber gloves and other things that start with the prefix “Poly”.

On the mouth A watered down version of the first Laphroaig.

Much sweeter, however, and less malty than the first one.

Finish Not a dry as the previous Laphroaig and that’s too bad.

In Sum Something tells me that this would be really nice as a cask strength Whisky.  I might have enjoyed it more if I went for this before the RMW Laphroaig. Note to self, when reviewing two whiskies side by side and one of them is cask strength and the other not… Start with the lower octane one…  That is all.

Special thanks goes out to David H for the samples!

Springbank 15yo – A whisky shelf must.

Campbeltown Region – 46%ABV –$75 – 90 | £44 | €50

I submitted the following to the Edinburgh Whisky Blog in the hopes to win a small sample of The Glenlivet 70yo.  My entry was among 13 favorites chosen by Lucas (one of the two fine chaps who run the blog, in case you’re not familiar…).  I had some tough competition and in the end did not win but hey, it was fun to write and I was happy to be chosen as one of Lucas’ favorites.

Here’s a link to all of the entries.

I’m reminded of a story my father once told about his trying to listen to, and appreciate, Bob Dylan. All of his friends were talking about this protest singer with a gravel-like voice that was telling it like it is. We’re talking circa 1964/65. He picked up two albums suggested to him by friends: “Bob Dylan” and “Freewheelin’”. He listened to these albums but could not get into it — he couldn’t understand what his friends liked about him. But he knew, from all of the praise about Bobby D, there had to be something. So, he listened to them over and over and over again and then realized that he kept playing them because he could not stop listening. He fell in love.

The story near mirrors my experience, from many years ago, with Springbank 15yo. It tasted like no whisky I’d had before and no whisky I wanted to have ever again. Yet EVERYBODY LOVED this whisky. There had to be something to it. I had to come back to it over and over again. It took me about 650 ml of my 750 ml bottle to fall in love. Now, it’s a staple bottle on my shelf (along side many other springers)! The moral is that it may not be the whisky that’s “bad” but our nose or palate that’s not ready for what it has to offer.

On the nose Flinty soil, coastal hay/grass and a good touch of tinned pineapple and fresh orange juice.

Smoked & oily whitefish – salty stuff!

Peat smoke and burning brush (so well integrated).

Apple juice and mulling spices… a bit waxy in scent as well.

A fun mix that can take a bit to get used to but all-in-all thoroughly enjoyable.

On the mouth This smacks of doused campfires and morning orange juice.

Candy/chalky wafers (yes, the Necco type).

Very sweet with notes of dried fruits (dates, mostly).

Even mouthfeel with both a juicy and tannic quality.

Browned lemons, grilled lemons and a bit of the fishiness I got on the nose.

Turnips and freshly paved roads.

Finish A slightly winey finish, tannic, long and notes of burnt wood.

In sum First & foremost, I threw a lot of scents and tasting notes out there for this one but I must try to express that on the whole; as a summation of all that’s going on here, this is uniquely “Springbank”.  Springbank is thoroughly unique and pretty damn unmistakable.  This is a good thing!  I’d enjoy this one as often as you could and keep it on your shelf – I do!

A couple of SMWS single cask bottlings (and they could not be more opposite from one another)

Back in March I had the good opportunity to attend the Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza in NYC.  You might remember that post.  If not, here it is.  It was a fantastic event and I plan on attending two of the Fall Events: one in Boston, one in Chicago.  Details on the Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza Fall schedule to follow in the coming months.

The good folks at the SMWSA were kind enough to give me some samples of the whiskies they were pouring at the NYC event for review.  So, before I get to the actual reviews, I’ve got to say thank you to Aron S for the samples!

Today I’m reviewing sherried Laphroaig peat monster and a light little ditty from Rosebank.  Why am I reviewing two completely different whiskies in the same post?  Well, it is MY blog after all.  “I do what I want!”

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, on to the review…

SMWS 29.88 – Laphroaig – Ex-Sherry 9yo 60.9% ABV

On the nose It’s very easy to get caught up in the soot and ashes that are all over this nose…

However, getting past that, I found some great bread pudding notes.

After that it’s gets very sea-like…

with loads of fresh caught fish.

Nori wrapped brisket and olive brine.

Rusty pipe water.

On the mouth Rusted iron frying pans soaking in a low-tide pool of sea water which is filled with flint stones and dying crabs, cracked shells and all.

I like this… sort of.

Honied ham sandwich slices and old brown lemons.

It all sound a bit too odd but, in context, it quite nice.

Chicoried coffee (like Luizzianne).

Salted caramels and chocolate covered toffee.

Finish Full of coffee, chocolate and overcooked prunes.

A tad nutty as well.

All in all, it’s got a decent length.

In sum Very much a whisky for specific moods.  I liken this one to a drink one should drink when they’re ‘pissed the *BLEEP* off’.  (to use the parlance of our times…).  A really, really odd duck but one that I imagine you’d like if you’re a fan of the Ardbeg Uggy.  Very complex and crazy stuff.

SMWS 25.55 – Rosebank – Ex-Bourbon 19yo 60.8% ABV

On the nose A lightly fruited nose (think pear & pineapple) with hints of herbal teas.

White pepper and even some notes of sweet hay.

Milk chocolate and a touch of light caramel (nice notes I often find in Rosebanks).

Back to the fruits now (the same as before).

What amazes me is how easily, at 60.8%ABV, this one can be nosed.

You’d think this is a low ABV whisky.

Rose pedals and sugared & honeyed chamomile.

On the mouth– Bright, effervescent and loaded with lemon fizz candies, over-sugared apple sauce.

Lemon, lemon, lemon, lemon, lemons.

Did I mention lemons?

How about… Lemons?

Oh, wait….Lemons?

More white pepper and now some white bread toast.

Finish Juicyfruit gum (like, dead on!), more white pepper and sugarcane.

Lasting peppery finish.

In sum A very one sided whisky but one that is so easily consumed.  Perfect as an aperitif, a mid day pick-me-up or a late summer relaxer.

The Arran “Westie” – Icons of Arran III

Islands Region – 46%ABV – £41 – Limited to 6,000 bottles – not available in US stores.

I’m more of a cat man, really.  There’s something about dogs that I just can’t get behind.

Is it the drooling?  The constant need for attention?  The messy clean-ups of poop and pee-pee?  Wait a sec, sounds more like I’m describing one of my girls when they were infants (and I sort of like them…).

I do like dogs, please don’t get me wrong.  Perhaps it’s more a love for cats and NOT for dogs.  A good cat will hop upon your lap and purr away whilst you do whatever; watch TV, sip on a malt, work on your computer.  S/he’ll also not give a crap if you and the family need to go on vacation for a few days.  Just put out some fresh water and food and make sure there’s some clean kitty litter and poof, you’re on your way.

I can not argue, however, with Mr. James MacTaggart for choosing his dog Ruaraidh (pronounced Roo-Ree) as one of the icons of Arran; especially if I’ll be meeting them both this August!

The man loves his dog.  I can respect that.  I love Arran whiskies.  It’s a win-win.

If it were me however, the name of my Icon would be dedicated to my now passed cat: Asswípé (pronounced ass-we-pay, folks!).  To the left is a mock up of what the packaging would look like.

If you don’t know how to pronounce his name, calling the whisky “The Asswípé” might be taken as just plain rude.  I think I’d call it “Meow Malt”

So, what is the Arran “Westie”?  It’s a marriage of 22 ex-oloroso sherry refill casks bottled at 46%ABV and like ALL Arran whiskies, non-chill filtered and with no caramel coloring.

On the nose Immediately fruity with sour cherries and sugared mango.

Crushed walnuts, shell and all.

Back to the fruits: pineapple, tangerine and watermelon pith.

Very sweet nose.

This is a fun one to jam your schnoz in to.

Spongey and orangey angel food cake as well as some sort of waxy saltiness to it.

On the mouth Great mouthwatering entry that’s both warming and puckeringly sweet.

The perfect mixture that is sharp cheddar and dried apricots.

Incredibly malty and full of vanilla and caramels.

I keep picturing in my head a bowl full of vanilla bean ice cream with melted caramel – perhaps even some banana.

Maybe it’s in my head but I totally want banana splits right now.

Finish Malty, waxy medium length.

In sum A great example of how good Arran can be, even when they veer a bit from their house style (or what I envision their house style to be).  A solid any day/any time whisky but might work nice as a woodsy morning malt – wake up, get out of the camping tent, smell the fresh mountain air and pour a dram with your camping pals.  Start your morning right.

A big thank you goes out to Andy H for the sample!